Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another transition

God willing, I'll be in Denver on Sunday night.
Classes start Monday at 9am.
That how my life seems to roll.

I am sad to be leaving this place and these experiences.
But more than anything, I am thankful.
It has been priceless.

For the last couple years, I have been homeless, and yet somehow I have had a sense of home wherever I have gone. Today, my home is in East Jerusalem. There are so many people here who have become a family to me, and their struggles, pain and joy have become mine.

I'll carry that with me no matter where my body rests at night.
Here's to another transition.

Adios Jerusalem.
Salaam and Shalom.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Relaxing Dahab

After an amazing day of exploring Cairo with the uncle of one of the girls I am traveling with (he let us stay in an apartment his family owns there and was our personal tour guide through the bazaar), we took an overnight bus to Dahab. We left at midnight and arrived at 10am, completely wiped out and grumpy from the endless security checks, smoking breaks, passport checks etc. that compose the journey across the contested Sinai penninsula.

All day Sunday we spent lounging by the ocean on the ubiquitous cushions that lie in front of every hostel and restaurant here, avoiding the ridiculously agressive shopowners, and making friends with a few kindred spirits....

today is more relaxing, and tomorrow it is back to the chaos of israel.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Made it to Cairo!!

We made it to Cairo on Thursday night! We have been staying at Hostel Lialy in downtown Cairo - I definitely recommend it for anyone coming through, the staff has been very friendly and helped us set up a hassle-free tour yesterday.

All day yesterday was about Pyramids - in Giza, in Memphis, in Saqqra (sp?) -
It was so surreal to be here. Last night we did a dinner cruise on the Nile - super cheesy.

March has to be the perfect time to be traveling here - it is cool in the evenings and mornings, and warm but not too hot in the afternoons.

Today we are exploring the city a bit, and tomorrow we head to the Sinai.

It is wonderful to be decompressing from the intensity of the last few months and being able to do so in such a fabulous place!

I'm loving it all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Last Days...

Right when it is time to fill out all of the reflections, evaluations, and finish my papers, I am suddenly mentally exhausted and have lost the inspiration to write.

I think that a large part of that is that these last days have been filled with goodbyes, gifts, parties, notes, and just an overwhelming realization that my time here is coming to a close.

On Monday, one of the Rabbis and I finished the concept note for a grant to the EU!!! It felt like such an accomplishment. He said that it was the first EU grant they had ever completed, because they are SO much work. We both stayed late and went early the next day, but we cranked it out. It would be fabulous if they got the grant, and I am thankful for having had the experience of writing it.

The same day, the staff and Rabbis for Human Rights threw me a little goodbye party. Working there has been one of my very favorite life experiences, so it is I who thank them. I'll write more about my overall reflection about my internship later.

Yesterday was my last day with the Bedouin teachers - it was actually very emotional for me. I took one of my friends with me - she is going to take over the classes when I am gone, which I am so thankful for. It feels good to be able to hand of these lessons to someone else who I know will do a fantastic job. I didn't want to abandon these ladies after they have opened up to me so much. I took with me a couple of scholarship applications for one of the teachers there. She is just a standout - I saw something special in her the very first minute I met her. She is someone who no matter how difficult a situation she lived in, she would excel. It has been hard for her though, she has enormous amounts of ambition in a society that is patriarchal and that makes it very difficult for a woman, especially a young woman, to follow their passions if they fall outside of the realm of what is considered socially acceptable. People talk about her behind her back, and her family puts enormous pressure on her to get married and settle down. Though life would probably be even more difficult for her if she wins one of these scholarships, it would give her the opportunity to travel and pursue her passions. She a leader, naturally, and she could do anything she put her mind to if given the opportunity. The teacher who is taking over my classes will be working with her to fill out the scholarship applications, and God willing, someday this Refugee Bedouin teacher will be changing the world.

This note was from her, and it is now one of my most prized possessions:

I have not known you so much yet, but Really I have Learned a lot of things from you. and I will never forget person like you. A good, neat, kind, funny person like Haley will never be forgetten easily.......
I appreciate everything you did for me. I appriciate your generosity in giving me the hope to continoue during the time I feel I need to stop.
Haley, Be sure. there is someone in Palestine called --- loves you. I just wrote there words there is no time and if there is more time I'll would write you many thing to say I love you... I'll miss you. Remember Jerusalem Palestin.
What a phenomenal experience I have had here. I am kind of bewildered to think that it is coming to a close! Where did it all come from, and how in the world is it over?

Today is a holiday (Purim) so, no work. I am going with a friend to Ramallah, finally. And tomorrow - I leave for Egypt. Then back here for a day or two, and then... back to Denver. I'll arrive on the 22nd, and classes for the next quarter start at 9am on the 23rd. Eek.

So many things to catch up on in this journal/blog - but it will have to wait.
Hope you all are having a wonderful week.
If you are in Denver, start preparing some Mexican food, because I am close to being on my way...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Off to the Dead Sea!

In just a few hours, I will be floating in the Dead Sea......

Have a wonderful weekend!

Clinton's got my back!

Clinton condemns Israel's demolition of Arab East Jerusalem homes

Move was a violation of international obligations, US secretary of state says at press call with Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas

Clinton voices concern over Israeli demolition plans Link to this video

Hillary Clinton criticised Israel's plans to demolish dozens of homes in Arab East Jerusalem today, during a joint news conference with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

The US secretary of state said the move was a violation of Israel's international obligations, and the US would raise the matter with the country's leaders.

"Clearly this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the 'road map'," she said, referring to the long-stalled peace plan. "It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem."

Clinton made the comments during her first trip to the Palestinian territories in her new role.In Jerusalem yesterday, she said the creation of an independent Palestinian state was now "inescapable".

However, Palestinian leaders say the continued expansion of Jewish settlements across East Jerusalem and the West Bank make it increasingly difficult for that state to be established.

"The main point is that the Israeli government needs to accept the two-state solution and ... stop settlement expansion," Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said.

Although Abbas has held peace talks with Israeli leaders since late 2007, he has little to show for it.

On Monday, the Israeli group Peace Now reported that the Israeli housing ministry was planning to build at least 73,000 housing units in West Bank settlements.

The organisation said 15,000 units had already been approved and another 58,000 were awaiting approval.

Almost 500,000 settlers now live in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. All settlements are illegal under international law.

The Palestinians will ask Clinton to put pressure on Israel to open its crossings into Gaza to allow in materials for rebuilding after the recent offensive.

"We want the US to help us open the passages to get material for reconstruction into Gaza," Erekat said.

Reports in the Israeli press today said that, in a meeting yesterday, Clinton had pressed the Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, to allow more aid into Gaza.

Clinton said the US would send two senior officials to Syria for "preliminary conversations", an apparent sign of a new softening of US policy.

US officials said Jeffrey Feltman, the state department's leading Middle East diplomat, would travel to Damascus along with Dan Shapiro, of the White House's national security council.

Last week, Feltman held talks lasting for almost two hours with the Syrian ambassador to Washington – the highest-level contact between the countries since the start of the Obama government.

Washington recalled its ambassador to Damascus in 2005 after the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in Beirut.

Obama's administration has been reviewing its policy towards Syria and is considering whether to send an ambassador again.

At a conference to raise aid for the Palestinians, held in Egypt on Monday, Clinton shook hands and spoke briefly with the Syrian foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem.

Clinton's announcement came after she met the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. She also met the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, the opposition leader and probable next prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and the current prime minister, Ehud Olmert.

Clinton has said she wants to pursue peace between Israel and the Arab world on "many fronts", suggesting she might encourage Israel and Syria to talk.

Some Israeli figures believe an agreement with Syria may be easier to achieve than a peace deal with the Palestinians.

However, Netanyahu has appeared to rule out negotiations with Syria by refusing to give up the Golan Heights, which Israel captured in 1967.

Netanyahu – who is likely to lead a narrow, rightwing government – has also stopped short of endorsing a two-state solution to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which may put his government at odds with the US administration.

Clinton said a two-state deal was in "Israel's best interests".

"The United States will be vigorously engaged in the pursuit of a two-state solution every step of the way," she said. "The inevitability of working toward a two-state solution is inescapable."

Monday, March 2, 2009

the demolitions begin.

I'm in the office today working on a grant to the EU.

However, we just got a call saying that a home in Silwan was just demolished, and several more are scheduled for today and tomorrow. The government is finally acting on its plans to demolish 88 homes in the neighborhood of Silwan. This comes just a week after the government issued a statement saying that there were no 'immediate plans' to demolish homes in this area.

These homes are part of the group of homes I have been profiling as part of my internship. Though the families I know personally have not yet been affected, I fear for the near future.

My heart aches for the families who are losing homes on this cold and rainy day.

Some background on the Silwan demolitions:
Christian Science Monitor
Washington Times

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Waltz With Bashir

Rent this movie.
It is an Israeli film - a documentary, about a Israeli man's memories of fighting in the Israeli/Lebanese war and the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Though it was Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia that carried out the massacres, the controlling Israeli forces essentially allowed it to happen, and the man in the film cannot remember his role or if he was there. The film takes you through his search for answers about the past, what happened, and how he was involved.

The producers chose to use animation, which is the only reason I was able to even to begin to stomach this film. It allows them to cover extremely difficult material in a very powerful way. It also allows them to portray the dreams and flashbacks of the people being interviewed in a way that regular film would not allow.

It was nominated for an Academy award for best foreign film this year.

Whether or not you are interested in the Arab/Israeli conflict, it is worth it to see, because it brings up enormous questions about war, violence, massacre, responsibility and memory.

I should warn - it is hard to watch, and very, very heavy. However, it is worth it.